CNN host Brian Stelter suggested on his “Reliable Sources” program Sunday that colleague and fellow host Chris Cuomo should have distanced himself from the network if he wanted to provide legal advice to his brother, Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Stelter’s comments come on the heels of a report last week first published in The Washington Post detailing advice the younger Cuomo gave his embattled governor brother following a series of sexual harassment allegations. The Post reported that Chris Cuomo, who is an attorney, instructed his brother during “strategy sessions” to dig in his heels and refuse to resign amid a number of allegations from several women, including former staffers, which many outside observers saw as credible.
The advice was seen as unsavory and inappropriate given Chris Cuomo’s role as a journalist, even as his network and others were covering the sexual harassment allegations and other various scandals involving the Democratic governor.
During a panel discussion on his program, Stelter reviewed the Post’s report and offered up some advice of his own to his network associate.
“CNN’s Oliver Darcy reported that staffers here at CNN were bothered by Cuomo’s conduct and by the violation of journalistic standards,” Stelter said.
“The network said in a statement that it was ‘inappropriate to engage in conversations that included members of the governor’s staff,’ and they say Chris acknowledges that fact. And Chris did issue an on-air apology to colleagues on Thursday, saying he put them in a bad spot and he won’t do it again,” he continued. “Nicole, if Chris Cuomo wants to call in to strategy sessions with his brother’s aides, shouldn’t he just take a leave of absence from CNN? Is that the right solution in the future?”
In response, Nicole Hemmer, an associate research scholar at Columbia University, said “it certainly is one solution” while going on to note that “it’s not unusual for people in the media to have relationships.” However, she continued, “you have to be absolutely transparent about it.”
“This is something that should have happened,” she continued. “And certainly should happen going forward if he wants to rebuild his credibility.”
Washington Post columnist Perry Bacon Jr. went on to say that while he found interviews Chris Cuomo did with his brother through the COVID-19 pandemic to, at times, be entertaining and humorous, he also questioned the appropriateness.
“Now that we’ve seen how [Gov.] Cuomo…handled COVID and how there were some real problems there in terms of disclosure and honesty, I don’t think his brother was the right person to probe that,” Bacon said, adding that it would be hard now for the network to suspend its host after allowing him to conduct those interviews.
In its exclusive, the Post reported that “Cuomo, one of the network’s top stars, joined a series of conference calls that included the Democratic governor’s top aide, his communications team, lawyers and a number of outside advisers, according to the people familiar with the conversations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private sessions.”
“The behind-the-scenes strategy … cuts against the widely accepted norm in journalism that those reporting the news should not be involved in politics,” the report added.
As he opened his Thursday evening program, Chris Cuomo apologized for his actions and for putting his network colleagues in a position of having to deal with the controversy.
“Like you, I bet, my family means everything to me. And I am fiercely loyal to them. I am family first, job second,” he said, adding that his actions were “a mistake, because I put my colleagues here, who I believe are the best in the business, in a bad spot.”
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